Avoidant Personality Disorder

Woman with avoidant personality disorder covering her face with her right hand

Anxious Personality Disorder

People with avoidant personality disorder experience nervousness and fear of being around others. They tend to have poor self-esteem, resulting in a fear of being rejected by others or being negatively judged. Because their fear is excessive, it leads them to avoid social settings.

Avoidant personality disorder affects men and women equally. It becomes evident in childhood and progresses into adulthood. But it is not diagnosed until age 18 or later. Personality disorders are not diagnosed in people younger than age 18, even though you can get an idea of what type of personality a child or adolescent has.

It is not clear what causes someone to develop avoidant personality disorder. Parental or peer rejection are possible contributors, impacting the person’s self-esteem and sense of worth. If a person experiences rejection many times and also has a poor self-esteem to begin with, it may promote the development of an avoidant defense mechanism, causing them to retreat back in the shadows and avoiding any social interactions.

The main symptom is an excessive fear of rejection by others, resulting in isolation. They may also be oversensitive and easily hurt by criticism, promoting further isolation in order to avoid future negative emotions. They also lack many friends, sometimes having no friends at all. Unless they are certain of being liked, they are not willing to take the risk to start a friendship or relationship.

They experience extreme anxiety in social settings. Some will avoid getting a job that involves contact with other people; think of the tollbooth worker who only works the night shift and communicates with people who are probably too tired to even say anything.

They are also very self-conscious, shy and awkward in social situations due to a fear of being embarrassed. They cannot take a chance to show their true personality because such a chance makes them vulnerable to criticism; instead, they hide behind an avoidant personality.

Lastly, people with avoidant personality disorder have a poor self-image, seeing themselves as unappealing in the eyes of others. If they cannot tolerate their image within their own mind, how do they expect to tolerate remarks, jokes, banter or criticism from others around them?

They can’t. So they become avoidant. If you suspect someone of having avoidant personality disorder, see if you can gently approach them and help them come out of their shell. Do not leave someone in the dark when you can shine a little light into their life!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)